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Death of a Gentle Lady by M.C. Beaton

June 3, 2008

This is a photograph of Hamish Macbeth. Well, not really. This is a photo of what I think Hamish Macbeth looks like. The pipes were just an added bonus. I can’t remember if Hamish plays the pipes… I think he does. It looks good, anyway. Pipes of all types are my favorite instruments. Too loud, you say? Well, then you have probably only heard Great Highland Bagpipes played inside a building, when really they were created to be played on the battlefield. Have you ever listened to Northumbrian smallpipes, or the Irish uilleann pipes? I took lessons for a few years on the uilleann pipes, but I really was never very good, as much as I wanted to be. But this is all digression. Back to Hamish Macbeth. You don’t know who he is? Oh dear. Start from scratch.

M.C. Beaton is the nom de plume of Marion Chesney who has written twenty-three Hamish Macbeth mysteries, eighteen Agatha Raisin mysteries, and numerous Regency romances. Over one hundred books all told. Whew!

I do like Agatha Raisin books, but Hamish is my favorite (pronounced Haym-ish). I just finished the latest in the series, Death of a Gentle Lady.

In Lochdubh, a sleepy little highlands village, there is rarely time for Constable Macbeth to go poaching for trout, or hiking with his dog Lugs and his wild cat Sonsie. Once again, an outsider has moved in and caused problems for the village. Elderly Mrs. Gentle, with her white hair and lavender clothes, is not the kindly lady she appears. When she turns up dead at the bottom of a cliff, Hamish not only has to solve her murder, but also the murder of his latest fiancé. He had become engaged on a whim in the hopes of saving his beloved police station, but it turns out his chosen wife isn’t all she claimed to be… or she is rather more than she claimed to be.

All of the familiar, wonderful, eccentric characters make an appearance in this latest installment. If you have never read Beaton, start at the beginning and work your way through them all. You will be taken to another world and gently entertained.

Beaton lives in a Cotswolds cottage (mid-west England) with her husband, journalist Harry Scott. A former journalist for daily newspapers, she now devotes her time to writing fiction. She also spends part of her year in Paris (oh, what a life!). She says about her writing:

I write two books a year – one Agatha and one Hamish Macbeth. I get up, reluctantly, in the morning, get my cigarettes and black coffee and head for the computer, and I write steadily for two hours a day. I enjoy reading Patrick O’Brian, PD James, Joanna Trollope, Denise Mina, Ruth Rendell and Eric Ambler.

You can read a fun interview of her here. Apparently she is a very entertaining lady. There is an official Agatha Raisin site, but I could not find one for Hamish. A BBC tv series was made in the 1990’s, about Lochdubh and the adventures of Hamish, but I haven’t seen any of them. There are lots of sites for this British comedy series.

So, back to bagpipes. In 2003 my daughter Sinead and I went to Irish Fest to see Kila perform. This is a group that blends traditional Irish music with Eastern European music, and they sing in Gaelic. Their website is also written in two languages. A great tune from their album, Lemonade and Buns, features the uilleann pipes: Turloughs. (Click on the title and you should be able to listen to it.)

There is also a good video in Gaelic with Rónán Ó Snodaigh singing Tine Last:

So there you have it. I have successfully avoided working on my portfolio for the complete evening! Thank you very much.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. fiona permalink
    June 3, 2008 4:48 pm

    Another beautiful post, Kerry. In every way. Such a fine combination of the visual, the informational, the personal (and here, the musical). Just what I’ve come to expect in my visits here. And you never disappoint. I do love mysteries for those times when nothing else satisfies. And I love Ireland! I know I’ll love Hamish too, and will start at the beginning as you suggest. Thanks!!

  2. June 4, 2008 2:51 am

    Thanks Fiona. I spread my Celtic wings a little bit here, I realize. I started in Scotland and ended up in Ireland! Oh well – all good stuff. I hope you enjoy Hamish, he is easy fun; perfect when I need “nurturing.” Like comfort food!!

  3. June 5, 2008 8:47 am

    Well then …. since i have read all of P.D. James’ novels, I now have a new author to explore and devour! thank you for the wonderful intro (and insight) – your posts are better than book jackets!! ever considered a career change ??? i’m serious – not joking.

    portfolios ??? as in education portfolio ??? grrrrr ….. i don’t even want to go there. do you know how many hours i had to put in just for my PPR class ??? and to be told that it must be an ongoing project …..

    i do hope yours is of a different and more artistic sort! good luck with four leaved clovers!


    ps i’m still quite envious. green actually. i shall have to change my signature name .. lady blue-green with envy …. heh.

  4. June 6, 2008 1:37 am

    Yes, education portfolio…. what is a PPR class? And Ireland is for one week – sort of a graduation celebration for my son (though one daughter is cashing in on it too).
    I am planning on a variety of “artistic” stuff for the summer, but you can’t quit the day job!
    Hamish Macbeth really is fun – very much comfort food stuff. Good for sitting in the shade on a lazy summer day. Hope you enjoy!

  5. June 6, 2008 11:05 am

    ahhh PPR – Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities (in education) … basically a 13 week course to prepare us for our state PPR exam which covers …. 13 competencies starting at human cognitive development and ending at communicating with various public entities!! and lesson planning and classroom management and everything else tucked in between ….

    mine is in a 5 inch binder and I have no more room left …. I will have to purchase another binder to continue. it is part of my alternative certification requirements, and i was given very specific guidelines on what it should have in it.

    at least the day job gives us summers off – more or less … !!

    i found a handful of unused bookstore gift cards as i have been sorting through ‘stuff’ – so i can’t wait to make my first “Beaton” purchase. Thanks again for the referral.


  6. June 7, 2008 6:42 pm

    mmmmmmm ppr sounds like something to avoid. thanks for the warning.

  7. Vicki Boyer permalink
    January 31, 2012 7:01 am

    so glad you’ve found a vision of the true Hamish… i understand the television version was very far from the real thing… am currently devouring the books in historical order…what i find comforting about them is that the author does not shy away from the depiction of human foibles… so humble, so reassuring, so thereby comforting… i haven’t felt such joy and delight for a long time.

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